Why Must Women Pray Behind Men?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Why are women required to pray behind men in a Mosque? I heard somewhere it is to stop the men from being distracted by the women, which is apparently unavoidable if men pray behind the women. If a man’s intentions for praying at the Mosque is truly pure, it shouldn’t matter whether he is praying in front of or behind women. If he finds the women distracting, I think he went there with false intentions.


Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray this message finds you well.

Islam’s teachings on gender relations are imminently practical and pragmatic. Often, Islam does not legislate on the basis of how people should be but how they actually are. God knows men and He knows women. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, who was the human vessel for divine revelation, understood human nature in a profound way.

Everything that Sacred Law prescribes is based on the idea that the primary sources of Islam (the Qur’an and Prophetic tradition) do not stipulate a thing except that there is some overriding wisdom in it. So the attitude with which we should approach the issue is that of gracious acceptance. If the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, commanded that women pray behind men, then he had a good reason.

It is not fair to read his tradition from a presentist standpoint and look at the configuration of the prayer in terms of female subordination to men. It’s not about male superiority or female inferiority. That women stand behind men does not suggest that they are secondary in the sight of God. God’s sight encompasses all.

Furthermore, Islam is a religion whose overriding characteristic is modesty. The prayer is very physical. Some men might be able to ignore a woman standing beside them or in front of them. Others might not be so successful. If men weren’t moved by the female body, then the billion-dollar advertising industry that objectifies and commodifies women would not exist.

Since Islam is about reality and dealing with people the way they are, there are specific prescriptions governing male-female interaction and these prescriptions extend to the prayer. Note, however, that outside of the formal prayer, there is no requirement in Islam that women always be out of men’s sight.

For example, in educational settings, women often sit parallel to men, albeit separated by some sort of divider. This type of separation should not be misconstrued. It is an important social etiquette, not an indication of one’s standing before God.

And Allah knows best,

Zaynab Ansari

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Answers:

A Reader On Gender Interaction

Chatting Online to a Cousin I’m Attracted to

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Assalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah,

I hope you’re all at your best of health, insha’Allah.

I want to know, if I can chat on the internet with my cousin, who is older then me, about moral and Islamic subjects? Is it permissible?

And what if one already knows that one has feelings for him/her, is it still okay if they keep their limits and only talk about Islam?

JazakAllahu khairan.

Answer: In the Name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful

Dear Questioner,

I pray this message finds you well.

Thank you for writing to SeekersGuidance; your question is very important to us.

Chatting online with someone you’re attracted to is not a good idea. While you might do your best to keep the conversation “moral and Islamic,” as you state, human nature always prevails. You also have to consider the medium. Online chat, by its very nature, imparts a sense of anonymity and artificiality to users and people find themselves typing and emailing things they would probably never say (or at least think twice about) were they in person.

If you’re interested in your cousin, why not pursue matters the proper way and initiate marriage talks under chaperoned conditions?


Zaynab Ansari

Is It Permissible to Propose to a Sister Who Has Already Been Proposed to By Another Brother?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: I just had a question regarding marriage proposals… if a brother approaches a sister and proposes to her while the two are alone without any mahrams present, is the proposal valid?

Also, if the proposal is valid, does another brother still have the right to pursue interest in that same girl, or even propose as well, considering she hasn’t given the first brother an answer?

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

A proposal is merely a request to marry someone. It is not a legal issue per se and so we cannot really define it as being valid or invalid.

However, there are specific rulings related to proposals.

Firstly, generally, It is permissible to do, as long as it is not done in an inappropriate manner or where there is fear of it leading to unacceptable behavior.

Secondly, it is prohibitively disliked for an individual to propose to someone after she has agreed to marry someone else. This is based on the prophetic narration, “A man should not propose on the proposal of another, until they marry or retract.” [Bukhari, Muslim] The prohibition, as indicated, relates to proposing to someone who is engaged to someone and when all that is left between the two individuals is the actual marriage contract.

However, if there is no agreement or commitment between the two parties, it is valid for a third party to propose. [Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

In the case you mention, since the woman has not given an answer, it would be permitted for another to pursue her. Even here is it best to proceed with discretion to avoid ill-feeling and damaging relations.

On a final note, concerning the specific scenario you mention, it is always best to propose to someone through channels that limit potential fitna. This entails having a reliable third party overlooking the process and keeping things in check, not overly expressing one’s emotions, avoiding being alone with the potential spouse, and so forth. There is great wisdom in the limits and guidelines of Allah and His Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in relation to gender interactions.


Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

If I have Sexual Thoughts About My Fiance’s Mother, Can We Still Get Married?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan

Question: I masturbated while seeing a picture of a non-mahram family member (by marriage). I have changed completely since then. I am in love with her daughter and I’m going to marry her soon insha’Allah. I am crying badly at the thought of it not being allowed. So please keep in mind that I didn’t physically touch her,  I just masturbated to a picture of her while she wasn’t my mother in law yet. Is my marriage with her daughter valid?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.

The Ruling in Question

What you did would not affect the marriage to her daughter: it is permissible for you to marry her.

Having said that, you must make tawba for that act: ask Allah’s forgiveness with sincere remorse, cease doing it (if you still do), and resolve never to do it again. Masturbation is sinful, and results in many problems, both worldly and spiritual.

An Important Consideration

Moreover, I would strongly advise you to make sure you have no sexual feelings towards the girl’s mother, as that can seriously affect your marriage — practically in terms of the relationship with your wife, and legally in the sense that according to the Hanafi school, a marriage is permanently dissolved by any one of the following acts between the husband and his wife’s mother: skin-to-skin contact with arousal from either side; either side looking at the other’s private parts with arousal; or actual intercourse.

[Nahlawi, Durar Mubaha]

This ruling is based on the statement of Allah Most High, “And marry not whom your fathers have married.” [4:22]

The word “marry” used in this verse is ‘nikah’, which in Arabic literally means to have intercourse. Furthermore, looking at private parts with arousal, touching with arousal, or kissing is normally a precursor to intercourse, and so they take its place in this ruling out of precaution (ihtiyat).

The ruling is also confirmed by some hadiths and statements of the salaf, of varying strengths of narration. It was also the position of many eminent companions, such as Umar, Ubayy ibn Ka`b, Aisha, and Ibn Masud; as well as the majority of the subsequent generation of followers (tabi`in). [Zayla`i, Tabyin al-Haqa’iq; Kasani, Bada’i al-Sana’i]

And Allah knows best.


Related Answer:

A Reader on Tawba (Repentance)

Should I Seek Forgiveness from a Girlfriend I Wronged Before I Was Muslim?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Assalamualikum,

Before converting to islam, i had a relationship with a girl. A few months before converting, I broke of all relationships all of a sudden.

Now that i am married, and am a muslim, I often feel guilt that i was unjust towards her.  Should I now approach that girl to seek her forgiveness?

I am reluctant because it might complicate things, but it is true that i was unfair to her, and that she might hold a grudge against me in her heart… and my fear is that she will accuse me on the day of judgment for breaking her heart, and being unfair to her.

Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful

Assalamu alaikum.

Dear Brother,

Thank you for your question.

While you may not have been a Muslim when this relationship occurred, you obviously had a sense of morality.

If your wife approves, I would suggest writing a note of apology after asking Allah’s forgiveness for whatever harm was done. Even if the woman does not accept your apology, you have done the ethical thing and can move on.


Zaynab Ansari

The Hadith of Women Walking on the Sides of the Street

Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: Is the hadith of women being commanded to walk on the side of the road applicable today?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,

Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

Thank you for your question. It is not a religious obligation for women to walk on the side of the road in Islamic law. This hadith was not applied literally in the books of Islamic jurisprudence, and its chain of narration is weak.

Rather, books of etiquette quoted this hadith to convey something about modesty and its implementation for both genders in the public sphere, such as not brushing past one another in a crowded walkway and respecting each other’s personal space.

The place of these hadiths in the Sacred Law, and how they should be understood

One such narration is found in the collection of Abu Dawud, where he narrates that:

“Abu Usayd al-Ansari narrated that his father heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) [speaking], while the latter was outside of the mosque and the men had intermingled with the women on the street. So he said to the women,

‘Hang back [from between the men], for it is not appropriate for you all to be walking in the middle of street [while crowded by men around you]; [rather] you should stay on the sides of the street.’

And [thereafter] a woman would stick so close to the walls [on the sides of the street], that her clothes would be catching on the wall because of how close she walked to it.” [Abu Dawud]

While commenting on the hadith’s chain of narration, Shaykh Saharanpuri points out that two of the narrator’s statuses in the field of hadith are unknown [Saharanfuri, Badhl al-Majhud], which would make the hadith very weak and inadmissible as a legal proof.

Supporting narrations in Bayhaqi’s Shu’ab al-Iman, Ibn Hibban’s Sahih, and Tabarani’s Mu’jam al-Kabir are also weak in their chains.

When viewed as a whole, it was said they would gain some strength, though they still were never applied literally.

Perhaps this is why these hadiths are only mentioned in some books of etiquette, since weak hadiths can be acted upon to promote an established virtue or warn against a vice, even though they do not become binding legal rulings.

The Importance of Modesty in One’s Interactions with the Opposite Gender

Even as a non-obligatory etiquette though, the context and meaning must be understood. The context was the mixing of strange men and women in a busy street outside the mosque, such that it was feared that modesty and respectful distance wouldn’t be observed.

Each side was asked to give the other some space by adhering to different parts of the road, so they did not brush up against one another.

Ibn Hajr al Haythami clearly notes this is “when there is a realistic likelihood of immoral behavior resulting”; hence, it is not a blanket ruling for all times and places. [al-Haythami, Fatawa al-Kubra]

The lesson in this hadith is about observing modesty in all our affairs. Between strange men and women in a shared public space, this would mean not walking too close to one another, nor staring, joking, flirting with or brushing past one another. In our times, we have sidewalks for everyone to use, and giving people their personal space and minding one’s own business is already generally observed by people who are sensible.

The obligation of modesty and giving respectful space should be upheld by both genders [Sayed Ali Zada, Shir’atul Islam], even if the other does not observe it. This means that if a woman is walking in the middle of a narrow pathway, the man should cleave to the side, as doing so is more about one’s God-consciousness (taqwa) than one’s gender.

Modesty is not solely learned through a set of rules, nor through clothing alone. Rather, it is a state of being which begins from the inward, and once it is present inwardly, it naturally permeates to the outward in a beautiful and graceful manner. And Allah knows best.


Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Is it Bad Manners to Be “Cold” to Protect Yourself from Developing Feelings for Someone?

Answered by Ustadha Jameela Jafri

Question: Assalaamu alaykum,

I stopped talking to a Muslim guy I know from work because I developed feelings for him.  Now if I see him, I’ll only give greetings and nothing else.  I don’t behave like this towards anyone else. Am I being a bad person by ignoring him and minimizing the contact? Is it bad adab to be a bit “cold” when speaking with him?


Answer: Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh,

Dear Sister,

Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. InshAllah this finds you in the best of states.

In itself, there is nothing inappropriate or wrong with speaking to a person of the opposite gender. In everyday situations, such as school, work, or business, men and women often have to interact with one another. As long as this is done with good manners, a sound heart, and respectful conduct, then one should not feel “bad.” In fact, when there is obvious need, then it is not disliked to speak to someone of the opposite gender.

It is normal that, at times, two people will be attracted to one another or that one person is attracted to another. There is nothing inherently wrong with this natural feeling. This feeling of attraction to a person of the opposite gender is a gift from Allah Most High and facilitates people getting married for the sake of pleasing Allah and following the sunnah of the Prophet ‘alay salatu wassalam. Again, one should not feel “bad” when one is not married and is attracted to someone and desires marriage. Like any situation, however, what matters is how we behave and conduct ourselves in these circumstances.

If one is attracted to someone but steps are not being taken to facilitate marriage, then it is important to safeguard one’s heart and soul. This caution is recommended in our deen and it is the reason why the Sharia has guidelines for the way that men and women should interact with one another. In your situation, there is romantic interest but it seems that steps are not being taken towards marriage. Given this, your inclination to avoid needless conversation is best for you. There is no need to be rude or harsh to the other individual, but if there is no obvious benefit in speaking with him and if conversing only causes more confusion or heightens romantic interest, then being cautious is best. In public spaces, it is fine to exchange salams and have minimal conversation to avoid being rude. Private conversations between the two of you should be avoided completely.

As we know, it is very difficult to remove memories and feelings from one’s heart. Allah Most High reminds us in the Qur’an, “Tell believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. That is purer for them for them. Verily, Allah is aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest.” (24:30-31). Avoiding needless conversation when one has romantic interest is a way to lower one’s gaze and be modest. It will inshAllah protect your heart.

Place your full reliance on Allah Most High that He will provide you with a caring and righteous spouse when the time is right. Although avoiding this person and protecting your heart may be difficult right now, find comfort in the promise of Allah Most High that “verily with hardship comes ease” (94:6).

I hope this helps,

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

I’m Married But I Still Think About Another Man

Answered by Ustadha Rukayat Yakub

Question: Salam A’alaykum,


I used to speak to this man before I got married.  Things didn’t work out at first.  Just before I got engaged, this man approached me with a phone call saying he was ready for marriage. I apologized and told him that my choice of marriage is with another man. Every time I have an issue with my husband, I doubt my decision and choice of which man I should have been with, as both are very much alike in deen and akhlaq, and this worries me a lot- as I feel like I’m causing harm upon my husband indirectly. It has also happened that I have re-spoken to the man since I’ve been married and I don’t want to speak to him, yet I feel like I don’t want to stop speaking to him. I am very confused and not sure what to do. Your help will be much appreciated.

Answer: Bismillah

Assalaamu alaikum dear sister,

It is imperative that you stop all communications with this other man.  Imagine how you would feel if your husband were doing this.  You made a decision, as long as your husband isn’t abusive, addicted or unfaithful to you, you have no reason to doubt your decision, and if you do, this is not the way to resolve it.  Any current issues in your marriage should be dealt with family guidance and/or marital counseling.

Let this man go on with his life and you with yours.  Marriage is what you make it, it is partly who you marry, but more importantly it is what you put into it and what you decide it will be.  It is not what we wish it to be, so if you want to change the tone of your marriage you will have to decide what you want and put in the work.  Most men respond positively to efforts their wives make in making a happy marriage.  A book I will recommend is The Proper Care and Feeding of Husband’s, it teaches women how to bring out the best in their husbands and make their marital lives happier.

I would also recommend you both taking  an Islamic marriage class, so you can both learn how to make this union one of happiness for you both in this world and the next. At the first sign of thinking about this other man, seek Allah forgiveness and do something else like reflect on something nice your husband has done, or does regularly for you.  Give him a call and thank him for what he does, do something you enjoy, this could be exercise, painting, reading, running or what ever your hobbies are.  Or it could be serving others in your local community through volunteering,

Keeping yourself busy, help others and reflect on the kind things your husband does and do  kind things for him.  Wishful thinking sometimes stems from unhappiness or discontent, so look at your present live, identify what is causing this feeling and change it, pondering on his other man will not make you happier.

May Allah ta’ala give you happiness in thie world and the next

Your sister

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Related Course:

Getting Married: Islamic Guidance on Successful Steps Towards Marriage

Is Physical Intimacy Allowed if You Are Engaged?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari

Question: Are engaged people allowed to make out? If they are are they allowed to do it in public?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

I pray you are well.

If by “engaged,” you are referring to the Arab practice of katb al-kitab, then it is lawful for the couple to engage in intimate contact because they are, technically, married. However, cultural convention holds that the couple should not consummate the marriage until they have the walimah (zafaf) and send-off and this is something that young people should respect.

My advice would be to hasten the walimah so that you may enjoy the benefits of marriage completely.

However, please be aware that certain behavior is only appropriate indoors and “making out” is one of them.

Culturally speaking, in the Muslim world, such behavior is simply not appropriate outdoors and, from the standpoint of Islamic decorum, husbands and wives should be reserved about showing affection in public. Holding hands is appropriate in most societies, and married couples should stop here when in public.

Finally, if the couple has not signed the marriage contract, then they are not lawful for each other and should refrain from all physical contact.


Zaynab Ansari

How Do I Get Over Feelings for Someone Who Got Engaged to Someone Else?

Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq

Question: I fell in love, and don’t know how to get out of it. He’s Muslim and engaged now, but he showed interest in my before his engagement.  Now he’s backing off, but I still have strong feelings for him.  I don’t know how to let go. I end up getting dreams/nightmares about me and him either being married, or me and him getting into terrible car accidents. I don’t know how to get out of this, and don’t know what these dreams mean. Please help.

Answer: Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and all who follow them.

Dear Sister,

Assalamu alaikum,

Thank you for your question. I pray you are in good health and iman.

The process you are going through right now is painful, but in the end, insha’Allah, you will emerge stronger.

If this brother really cared about your well-being and believed you had a future together, he would have proposed marriage to you. By becoming engaged to someone else, he is demonstrating that he is not worthy of your consideration. He has made his decision, so let him go in peace.

As to your dreams, make sure that you sleep on ablution and prayer every night. Read some Qur’an, particularly the Refuging Verses (the last three chapters of the Qur’an) every night.

And ask Allah to grant a righteous spouse:

“Our Lord! Grant unto us mates and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.” Al-Furqan (The Criterion) [25:74]

Finally, find something that will add value to your life so that you’re not wasting precious time pining over someone who is unattainable. Find a way to serve someone in need. And do what you need to lift yourself up spiritually.

May Allah Ta’ala grant you ease,

Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
June 10, 2011/Rajab 9, 1432